By Sr. LaDonna Olson

In January 2017,  my daughter and I traveled to Tanzania. Tanzania has one of the fastest growing Lutheran presences in the world. It is a relatively safe place to visit, and I have found the people in Tanzania to be extremely friendly and welcoming. This was my seventh trip to Tanzania and my daughter Jenni’s fourth. It is my preferred place to visit, whether I am doing touristy or diaconal things.

The plan for this trip was to visit an African friend who had returned to Tanzania from America after suffering a stroke. The plan was to travel to visit other old friends and to Tanga in order to connect with the Director of 4-H Tanzania. Jenni is a 4-H Coordinator of Isanti County, Minnesota and is hoping to eventually develop a partnership with 4-H Tanzania. Jenni also wanted to visit with friends in the Iringa Diocese, the partner Diocese of the St Paul Area Synod.

We arrived in DaresSalaam, where we were met by the family of our friend who is recovering. They graciously welcomed us. From there we traveled to Tanga. Tanga is located over 200 miles north of DaresSalaam. It is a historically German colonized city and has many stately old buildings. We stayed at the McKonge Hotel – a modernized version of German construction. Our 4-H host was Susan Naburi. She was a delight! She had studied in the US and we were able to share stories of cultural differences and idiosyncrasies that created a lot of hysterical laughter! Susan acted as a tour guide and drove us to see the Amboni Caves, which were massive, and the historical site of Tongoni, the 15th Century ruins of a Muslim worship center and ritual burial ground.

Tanzania is a large country and travel by road can take a long time. We flew from Tanga back to DaresSalaam and then flew from DaresSalaam to Iringa. It was amazing to see the topography from the air. The normal 9-hour bus ride to Iringa from Dar took only 1.5 hours by air.

In Iringa we were met by Pastor Nixon Mwitula, a dear friend, and our host. We stayed with Pastor Nixon, his wife, Prisca, and their three adorable children, Messiah their son, and Promise and Perfect, the two daughters. Pastor Nixon leads the Ipogolo Lutheran Parish and is also the pastor interested in developing a Deaconess presence in his region. He is in touch with Sr. Florence from our partner Deaconess Community in Karagwe, and with Sisters in Arusha and Moshi.

After spending three days with friends, we took a bus back to DaresSalaam and met up with Pastor Anta Muro, a district pastor in the city. We first met in 2005 on my first visit to Tanzania. His family has become very special to Jenni and me. In fact, he and his wife are considering coming to the US to preside at Jenni’s wedding in the fall! We took the twin boys, Simon and Peter, to the White Sands resort to spend a day swimming in the pool and walking the beautiful beach of the Indian Ocean. We also enjoyed some wonderful Bible studies with the family.

When I think about the wonderful friends that I have made over the years on my trips to Tanzania, my heart swells with gratitude. My life is so much richer because of them! God has done marvelous things through this partnership!